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April 21st, 2008:

SBI Green Week Chatteris

Traffic Concerns Over New Tower In Taikoo Shing

Residents fear more air pollution

Anita Lam – SCMP – Updated on Apr 21, 2008

Residents and workers in Taikoo Shing are bracing for more traffic and increased pollution – from a new office tower in the area.

The 70-storey One Island East, which opened on April 1, will bring an average of 650 more vehicles an hour into the area when most of the tenants move in this summer, according to estimates by developer Swire Properties.

District councillors and residents fear that the traffic – three times more than before the Quarry Bay landmark was developed – will clog the narrow streets, causing more noise and dust.

The company’s head of public affairs, Miranda Szeto, admitted the tower – already 87 per cent leased – would attract more cars and pedestrians to the area. But the impact would be much less than the figures suggested, she said.

“The extra traffic will be mostly private vehicles, not trucks or cargo vans as it used to be,” she said, referring to traffic flow at the two industrial buildings that were demolished to make way for the tower. “And the extra cars will be diverted among various roads within the area … it’s not like they will all jam into one street at a particular moment.”

Westlands Road, which leads to the tower, has already been changed to more clearly direct drivers and allow smoother traffic flow.

But Eastern District councillor Andrew Chiu Ka-yin, a long-time resident in the area, and his neighbours were worried much of the increased traffic would come from the Island Eastern Corridor through Taikoo Wan Road, bringing more noise and dust.

“Swire said vehicles would be encouraged to drive to the corridor through Hoi Tai Street on the harbourfront, but drivers tend to pick the shortest route to their destinations, and that is Taikoo Wan Road.”

Meanwhile, people who drive to work at Taikoo Place were worried that finding a parking space would become more difficult. As One Island East does not have its own car park, drivers would have to use the car parks under Taikoo Place.

But Ms Szeto said the number of parking spaces was adequate. Figures showed that of the 1,300 spaces available, only about 70 per cent were used.

The Transport Department said Swire had not provided figures on the traffic implications of the new office tower, but a government engineer said roads in the district should be able to cope for the next five years.

One Island East, however, is the first of a number of developments expected to add to the congestion in the next few years. The 350-room Cityplaza Hotel on Taikoo Shing Road is expected to open next year.

Swire is also seeking to redevelop three office blocks at Taikoo Place – Somerset, Cornwall and Warwick houses – into two skyscrapers.

Public Urged To Report Cases of Light Pollution

Cheung Chi-fai – Updated on Apr 21, 2008 – SCMP

The public should adopt a zero-tolerance approach to light pollution and report cases to the government to encourage drafting of a regulation to control outdoor lighting, Friends of the Earth said.

The Environmental Protection Department received 40 complaints about light pollution last year, the most in seven years.

The green group said most of the complaints were not resolved because there was no regulation controlling the location and magnitude of outdoor spotlights and neon signs.

Friends of the Earth said yesterday that controls on lighting put in place to protect flight safety had been relaxed since the closing of Kai Tak airport in 1998, allowing lights to spring up on the tops of buildings.

“Most people simply passively respond to the pollution by blocking their windows with thick curtains and pretend to live as usual,” the group’s environmental affairs manger, Hahn Chu Hon-keung, said. “The fact is, what they do is not the most desirable. What we need now are some substantial stories with `flesh and blood’ to kick away the numbness of the government and compel it to address this problem seriously.”

An inquiry by the green group as part of its Dim It campaign found some victims of light pollution had difficulty having their grievances addressed.

An elderly woman living in Argyle Street, Mong Kok, was forced to sleep in her dining room because of strong light beaming into her bedroom from a neon sign illegally built on her flat’s exterior wall.

Another case involved a group of residents in Tai Wai who were driven to stage a sit-in to protest against a steak house’s neon sign. Some had found the light unbearable and had to move home.

A survey of 1,500 people by the group in October found most agreed that the city’s lighting was excessively bright and 8 per cent had been affected by light pollution.

Kam Nai-wai, a Democratic Party Central and Western District councillor, said the council had discussed light pollution with the government four times to no avail.

A spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Department said light pollution was not subject to control under existing environmental regulations, but outdoor advertising lights were regulated by various departments for safety reasons.

“We are also monitoring international trends on the issue of light pollution to further improve lighting systems,” she said.

US Candidates Avoid Hard Facts On Cuts In Greenhouse Gases

Agence France-Presse in Washington – Updated on Apr 21, 2008

All three White House hopefuls say global warming is a priority – but all avoid the politically unpopular details of slashing harmful emissions, experts say.

Environmentalists agree that any of the candidates would be an improvement over US President George W. Bush, whose term expires in 2009 and who vowed last week to cap emissions from the United States, a leading world polluter, after 2025.

But while green groups fret over whether the next president will be aggressive enough, business groups caution that job losses and spiking energy prices will accompany any efforts to put a mandatory halt to pollution.

Senator John McCain, 71, the likely Republican nominee, is the least favourite among environmentalists even though he is considered unusually green for a conservative.

He supports the use of nuclear energy to limit carbon emissions and reduce US dependence on oil from abroad, and has not specified mandatory levels for capping emissions or use of renewable energy.

“Everyone knows that John McCain has been a leader in the fight against global climate change and he believes the time for action is now,” his spokesman Tucker Bounds said.

Asked if Mr Bush’s proposal went far enough, Mr Bounds said the president’s speech offered a chance for the world “to welcome an important ally in working against carbon emissions and other issues. That’s the extent of what I’m going to say about it”.

Senator McCain has drawn criticism from the League of Conservation Voters for being inconsistent in his Senate votes on environmental issues. Greenpeace said his support for nuclear power was impractical.

“To avoid the most significant impacts of global warming we need to make significant reductions within a seven-year window. Nuclear will not get us there because it takes 10 years or more to build a nuclear plant,” Greenpeace spokeswoman Jane Kochersperger said.

“The problem is we need to have substantive discussions about the viability in terms of technology as well as jobs and the environment.”

Cathy Duvall, political director of the Sierra Club, the largest US environmental group, called Senator McCain’s solutions “outdated”.

Democrat senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are nearly identical in their stances on the environment: both support a system of mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions coupled with a trading system of allowances, called “cap and trade”.

Both also want renewable energy to supply 25 per cent of the US economy’s needs by 2025, to slash carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050, higher fuel efficiency standards and bigger biofuel reserves by 2030.

“We haven’t made a determination of one over the other,” said David Sandretti, spokesman for the League of Conservation Voters which, like the Sierra Club, has yet to make a political endorsement.

The campaigns of Senator Obama and Senator Clinton did not respond to requests for comment.

Greenpeace has also struggled to get specifics, according to Ms Kochersperger, who blamed the close Democratic race for the nomination and the battle for blue-collar votes ahead of the crucial primary in the state of Pennsylvania tomorrow.

Democrats “don’t want to rile those voters at this juncture. They are not being completely honest about what needs to be done”, she said.

Job cuts could arise from coal plant closures, and higher energy prices could force US businesses to move their factories abroad, according to William Kovacs, vice-president of environmental issues at the US Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber does not endorse any presidential candidates, but supports expanded use of nuclear energy and is opposed to cap-and-trade legislation, known as the Warner-Lieberman bill, which is being debated in the US Senate.

The bill will “literally legislate prices higher because you will restrict the ability to use energy”, Mr Kovacs said, adding that any new US laws should not harm the economy, be international in scope and based on usable technology.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has estimated the legislation would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent in 2030 and cut gross domestic product by between US$238 billion and US$983 billion. Electricity prices would rise 44 per cent in 2030 and 26 per cent in 2050, it said.

But environmental groups say the long-term benefits to the Earth are far greater. “We feel that these dire predictions are unfounded, and do not even begin to touch on the health benefits of making air and water cleaner,” Mr Sandretti said.